ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - For the second year in a row, Kiki Bertens reigned supreme at the St. Petersburg Ladies' Trophy.
The No.2 seed became the first player to successfully defend her title at the Premier-level event with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over No.8 seed Elena Rybakina in Sunday's championship.
It was a dominant showing for the World No.8, who needed just 74 minutes to seal her second successful title defense, having also won back-to-back titles at the Nurnberger Versicherungscup in 2016 and 2017.
The victory was the culmination of an emotional fortnight for Bertens, who was in tears in her on-court interview after the win.
Following a dramatic weekend of Fed Cup competition, where the Bertens-led Netherlands team lost a dramatic 3-2 tie in Belarus in the deciding doubles match, the World No.8 came to St. Petersburg and lost just one set en route to her 10th career WTA title.
"To defend your title, it's always something special. You come with such great memories, and if it happens where you have a beautiful trophy again, I'm more than happy," Bertens told reporters after the match.
"This week was a really tough week. We lost Saturday night in the deciding doubles, 7-6 in the third set and 10-8 in the tiebreak. It was a really tough day. Sunday, I was flying here already, but I think I was still crying for the whole night because I felt so bad after that tough loss.
"I was coming here and putting all the energy I still had left in me during my matches. My team was pushing me this week, so I'm really thankful for that. You can still achieve anything if you just work hard and fight every day to win a match, and you can still hold a trophy at the end of the week."
2019 🏆— WTA (@WTA) February 16, 2020
2020 🏆@kikibertens defeats Rybakina, 6-1, 6-3, in the @formula_tx final! pic.twitter.com/YYWnlbRJFG
Bertens broke serve four times overall and never lost her own, saving all five break points that she faced - all of which came in the second set.
Four of those opportunities came in the opening game, as the World No.25 had a chance to take her first lead since she held serve to begin the match, after having lost six straight games to lose the opener.
After securing what proved to be the decisive break in the fourth game to extend her lead to 6-1, 3-1, Bertens saved the last break point she faced to hold for 4-1, and earned another tough hold at deuce to lead 5-2.
.@kikibertens pounds a forehand winner 👊#FormulaTX pic.twitter.com/Ht4CGQJLkI— WTA (@WTA) February 16, 2020
The Russian-born Kazakh upped her level in the second set, as four of the nine games extended past deuce, but Bertens had all the answers in crucial moments.
"I never expect any match to be easy. It didn't feel easy, of course, even though the scoreline was. At the end, I felt a little bit nervous, but I was just happy to close it out," Bertens said.
"I just tried to approach every point the same, no matter what the score is. Sometimes, on a break point, you go for a little more on serve, and that's what I did today."
It began with a near-perfect showing off the ground in the opener, where Bertens racked up 11 winners to just two unforced errors, and continued throughout the match.
The Dutch No.1, who agreed with a reporter's assessment that the final was her 'best match' of the week, totaled 22 winners and six aces in the match overall, to just 13 unforced errors.
Outstanding forehand, @kikibertens 👏#FormulaTX pic.twitter.com/PXCWLd0mXD— WTA (@WTA) February 16, 2020
In doubles, top seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara rallied past No.3 seeds Kaitlyn Christian and Alexa Guarachi to claim their third title as a team and second straight in Russia, 4-6, 6-0, 10-3.
The Japanese pair have now won their last three finals, winning the Tianjin Open and the Kremlin Cup in Moscow last fall.